They say it takes a village to raise the child; in the case of a non-profit with visions of growth, it takes that village (or Board of Directors) to raise the funds. While a non-profit’s Board of Directors plays a vital role in an organization’s fundraising success, their ability to positively influence the grant process is often overlooked. Here are a few ways to engage your Board of Directors in your grants program:
Use their connections—Whether your organization is seeking funds from a foundation, a corporation, or an individual, one thing remains the same—people give to people. Behind every foundation are a team of staff and trustees who make the decisions of who will receive funds. More often than not, someone on your Board has a relationship with a funder that can open doors that were previously closed. For every grant you seek, prepare a list of all staff and trustees for your Board. This information can be found on the foundation 990 or funder website. If a Board member has a relationship, ask for an introduction. If at all possible, have that Board member join you for an introductory meeting with the funder.
Use their enthusiasm—If you’re lucky, your organization will have a Board that is engaged and passionate about your mission and vision. Perhaps they were a past client or a professional in the field. Use that passion to show a potential funder that your community is invested in the work that you do. Ask a dynamic Board member to write a letter of support for your organization (take note—only do this if the funder allows additional attachments on a grant application). Have them state exactly why they care so much about your mission. If a funder’s grant process includes a review panel, ask a Board member who is well-versed in your programs to come and provide their support.
Use their expertise—Perhaps a Board member for your literacy organization is an English professor or the Board President of your wellness organization is an esteemed physician. As them to review your grant and provide their notes on its content. In many cases, the review panel will be made up of similar professionals. Their critiques will give you vital insight into what potential grant reviewers will be thinking when they read your application. At the very least, have each Board member edit at least one grant during the fiscal year. You will benefit from a fresh perspective, and they will get an even greater understanding of the wonderful work that you do!
Remind them of their fiduciary duty—The Board is responsible for the financial accountability of your organization. Officers are authorized to enter into contracts, including grant contracts. Make sure your Board is aware of this and encourage them to do their due diligence to oversee the management of grant contracts. Any misleading or fraudulent claims in an awarded grant could lead to legal or financial repercussions. In U.S. vs. Educational Broadcasting Corporation, an organization co-mingled and misused grant funds awarded by three major federal funders. The defendant was forced to pay $950,000 in fines and create a corporate compliance plan. They probably also lost any chance at receiving federal funding for the foreseeable future. A Board that is engaged in the grant process, carefully reviews any grant contracts, and maintains vigilance over how that money is used, can avoid a catastrophic situation and ensure the financial health of their organization.
What other ways have you engaged your Board of Directors in your grant seeking efforts?